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Centre for Online and Distance Education

News archive 2019

A collection of CODE topics and news from 2019.

Educator role is 'wicked'

Maren Deepwell, CEO of the Association for Learning Technology, reflecting on her keynote at the CDE RIDE conference earlier this year via her blog, picks up on a section of the 2018 Horizon Report, which describes rethinking the role of educators not as a solvable or even a difficult challenge, but a wicked one, in the sense that it is ‘complex enough to define, but even more so to address’.

Student Researchers across the Globe - is this unique?

Today saw the launch of our CDE Student Research Fellows project. Student involvement in research projects is common at most universities, but our Student Research Fellows are living across the world and this is will be one of the first distance education student researcher projects. Six students joined the CDE  team at University of London for the virtual launch and induction meeting. Drawn from Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Trinidad, USA and Germany, our Student Fellows will work on research, development and evaluation projects ranging from exploring student learning activity in online environments, to supporting staff development for the Digital Educator and combating contract cheating.

Prison no barrier for Distance Education degrees 

Over the last 10 years the University of London has cooperated with African Prison Projects to provide a legal education for prisoners, prison officers and APP staff via distance learning. 
This year there were seventeen graduates which included three prisoners who had been released. CDE Fellow Patricia McKellar, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Laws was in Nairobi, Kenya this October to award degrees to the students who all have challenging stories of their incarceration and their path to studying for the law degree. Read more about this story on Patricia's blog post.

Joint symposium in Abuja

On 25 and 26 November the Centre for Distance Education Executive Lead on Research and Dissemination, Professor Alan Tait, joins Mike Winter and Peter O’Hara (Global Engagement) in Nigeria. Co-hosting the Annual Symposium on High Quality Distance Education with the Nigerian National University Commission (NUC), UoL and CDE colleagues will provide keynote input to the symposium and hold strategic planning meetings with the NUC Executive Secretary on preparations for the London workshop and RIDE Conference in March 2020, exploration of joint research, and the development of teaching centre and parallel degree provision in Nigeria.

Questioning distance learning technologies

In a recent blog post Anglia Ruskin University academic Dr Beatriz Acevedo reflects on her experience of the CDE 'Supporting Student Success' workshop 9/10/2019. "[The workshop] was an excellent way to reframe my own approach to learn about distance learning and hear from experienced academics and young innovators. Connecting with my own passion for Design Thinking, I will try to spend more time in the “What is” and the “Why”, before engaging in expensive technologies that do not really challenge the status quo of education." You can read more blog posts about the workshop on the CODE Director's blog.

Meeting the world

Exciting opening welcome from Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD Minister of State for Higher Education, Ireland at the World Conference on Online Learning. Centre for Distance Education Fellows and Head are attending and presenting our research. The conference themes of empowerment and transformation are close to the heart of the University of London.

MOOCs: The consequences for learning and teaching in credit bearing programmes

A new paper by CDE Fellows Alan Tait and Stylianos Hatzipanagos throws light on the nature of innovation in institutions of Higher Education, and supports the institutional strategy of investment in MOOCs in order to reform the broader practice of learning and teaching on and off campus. The paper was presented in September 2019 at the the Ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF9) on Open Learning

OU China visit to CDE begins

This week sees the start of the visit by Fengwei Cai and Luo Xiaobo, visiting scholars from Open University China to the Centre for Distance Education. Since 1999 the Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT) based in London has had an Agreement with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to co-sponsor a group of just 5 academics to visit the UK for three to four months each year, with the aim of providing high-quality research opportunities on open and distance education to professionals (lecturers, full-time researchers and management staff) from the Open University of China and its branches across China.

Fengwei and Luo are here to research Open and Distance Learning  practice at UoL and share experiences of running large scale open and distance education programmes in China and around the world. Fengwei said “We chose UoL because it is one of the largest, most diverse universities in the UK with over 120,000 students in London, and a further 50,000 studying across 190 countries for a University of London degree, and it is the first one to undertake distance education in the world.” Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper, Head of the Centre for Distance Education, noted ‘We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate on projects that explore issues of student engagement and learning through social media with colleagues from China and we look forward to establishing longer term collaborations."

Discussion forum participation does not predict learner success

Research by CDE Fellow Gwyneth Hughes and Lesley Price, UCL Institute of Education, challenges the common assumption that discussion forum activity levels can be used to predict student learning and subsequent success or failure. They conclude that level of participation in discussion forums does not predict success or failure, whereas students’ giving and receiving of feedback provides a good predictor of success. Programme design should reflect this they argue. The paper “Systematic peer reviewing versus a discussion forum for promoting online learner success: an evaluation of innovative learning design for postgraduate students” will be presented at the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in November 2020.

University of London at Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open and Distance Learning

The University of London (UoL) has been fully engaged with PCF09 – the Commonwealth of Learning’s conference gathering in Edinburgh, 9-12 September 2019, of more than 500 policymakers, practitioners and researchers in open and distance learning from across the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.

The University’s Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE)’s Fellows Professor Alan Tait and Dr Daksha Patel have co-presented papers, and UoL’s stand has been busy with lively conversations around ways in which the CODE can engage with academics and professionals in building open and distance learning capacity; and the role of postgraduate degrees in building skills.

Supporting Student Success

The Centre for Online and Distance Education, University of London, hosts our annual Supporting Student Success workshop on Wednesday 9 October 2019, 9 AM to 2 PM.

The workshop offers professional development for colleagues in the field of distance and online learning. With a focus on supporting practice and understanding in the field, the interactive sessions will draw on Centre for Distance Education projects and work in progress. Themes to be explored include:

  • Innovations in programme design
  • Teacher educator development
  • Preparing digital educators for the future
  • Improving student progression in distance learning
  • Pedagogical effectiveness of simulations and games
  • Using chatbots to support assessment outcomes

See the full programme for details of sessions and speakers.

Outstanding CODE author

Congratulations to CDE Fellow Alan Tait whose paper 'Open Universities: the next phase' published in Asian Association of Open Universities Journal has been selected by the editorial team as an Outstanding Paper in the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards. The paper was judged one of the most exceptional pieces of work the team has seen throughout 2018.

Open Education award for Eye Health Team

The Open Education Team led by CODE Fellow Daksha Patel has been awarded a national Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) by HE Advance. The judges praised the Open Education in Eye Health as “a model of open education practice”.

Distance Learning Success

Sarah Tarar is one of three academic leaders who recently graduated with our Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, studied completely online. Sarah reflects on her experience of distance learning as a guest blogger on the Director's Blog, you can read about how online study changed the way these successful graduates think about teaching - Reflections on the PG Cert Learning and Teaching.

Open University China Collaboration

The Centre for Distance Education will host two visiting Scholars from the Open University China in September 2019 and, following a recent visit by a senior delegation from OU China, explore opportunities for further collaboration between the World’s Oldest Distance Education provider and the largest Open University in the world.

CDE in QAA Nigeria Report

A recent QAA report on the higher education landscape in Nigeria favourably mentions how the Nigeria Universities Commission is drawing on extensive Open and Distance Learning experience of the University of London, through collaboration with the Centre for Distance Education through a Capacity building workshop on open and distance learning.

Global training takes off

Teaching staff from across the globe are benefiting from the innovative online professional development degree offered by the Centre for Distance Education at the University of London. The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education brings together teaching staff from a very wide range of subjects to develop their skills in classroom and online teaching.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education has been specifically designed for those teaching, tutoring and supporting the learning of students in higher education.

The programme has an impact on teacher's practice. Kholah Yaruq Malik (Director International Qualifications and Quality Assurance, The Millennium University College, Pakistan) who completed the programme in March 2019 said, 

I chose to study the PGCert Higher Education programme because I felt the need to learn, unlearn and relearn. Being in higher education, I feel it's imperative to go back to the classroom for a new perspective on teaching and learning. As a teacher I have incorporated many things from the course into my teachings, from small things like peer review, to using wiki and the importance of students' existing knowledge (schemata) and so much more.

What research says about how and why learning happens

CODE Fellow David Baume has co-written, with Open University Regius Professor Eileen Scanlon, two chapters for Enhanced learning and teaching with technology. It was edited by UCL Professor of Learner Centred Design Rosemary Luckin and is available on the UCL IOE Press website.

Supporting e-learning developments for The Careers Group CODE

Fellows Professor Stephen Brown, Dr Endrit Kromidha and Julie Voce are working with The Careers Group, University of London, to identify how the Careers Group can proactively develop their e-learning practice across all colleges and the challenges that need to be overcome to do so.

If you would like help or advice about e-learning development and distance learning contact

Digital heaven or Uberisation of academia?

A new report by a CDE-organised think-tank analyses current trends and presents four contrasting visions of possible futures for digital education in 2028. The authors argue that, in order to be ready for the challenges of the next decade, institutions and governments need to invest now in change management; building relationships with other players in the education ecosystem; and provide digital skills training for all teachers.

Have your say by responding to the Digital Educator Project Report Poll.